NEW YORK -- For a dozen of the Mets' most promising prospects, Monday was a reward. The recipients of the organization's annual Sterling Awards, prospects including Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini, came to Citi Field, met with current Mets players and personnel and took batting practice on the field.
For the 13th winner, however, the experience was different. Outfielder Michael Conforto needed only to rise from his chair in the clubhouse, step away from the locker with his nameplate on it and move down the hall to accept his award.
"It's been an incredible year in this organization," said Conforto, the Mets' Sterling Player of the Year, who homered in Monday's 4-0 win over the Braves. "Obviously I'm humbled to have this award and be recognized this way."
Unlike the Mets' other award winners, most of whom are still in Class A ball, Conforto is a Major Leaguer. Barely a year removed from college, he has established himself as one half of a left-field platoon in Flushing, and a lock to make the Mets' playoff roster.
Along the way, Conforto has become something of an inspiration for the organization's other award winners.
"Playing with Michael really opened my eyes," said Smith, the Class A St. Lucie Player of the Year. "He taught me a lot. He's a polished college bat, so I picked his brain a lot day in and day out, watching him hit and study the game. He helped me get to this point as well."
Smith was one of three former first-round picks to receive Sterling Awards, along with Conforto and Cecchini, the Double-A Binghamton Player of the Year. Other winners included Sterling Pitcher of the Year Robert Gsellman, Triple-A Las Vegas Player of the Year Travis Taijeron, Class A Savannah's Luis Guillorme, Class A Brooklyn's Alex Palsha, Class A Kingsport's Patrick Mazeika and Kevin Kaczmarski, Rookie level Gulf Coast Mets' Adonis Uceta, and Dominican Summer League players Wagner Lagrange and Nicolas Debora.